Beloved Child of God

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This is a period of time when many Christians prepare for Easter. It is common to attend a church service on that day, and as part of the service, ashes are placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross to remind congregants of their sinfulness and need for redemption and repentance.

I have some holy envy when it comes to Ash Wednesday, so I often try to stop in somewhere for a service because I find it all very meaningful. However, I’m in the middle of moving, my assistant is on vacation, and I’m swamped at work. As a result, I wasn’t able to go to a service this year.

I was at Starbucks on Wednesday evening, in between work and a trip to Ikea, when I saw two clergy members at a table outside with a sign that said “Ashes to Go”. I walked over to say hello, and they asked me if I wanted ashes. I said yes. One of them placed the ashes on my forehead and said a prayer. “You are a beloved child of God, and you are marked with the cross of Christ forever…” There was some stuff about ashes and dust, but none of that registered.

I was moved almost to tears by the pronouncement. At church, we sing “I am a child of God”. But there was something more meaningful about another person declaring me to be a child of God. And not just any child, but a beloved one. And the cleric proclaimed me as belonging to Christ forever. He didn’t conduct any sort of worthiness interview. He didn’t ask me where or if I go to church. I’m Christ’s because I want to be, and that’s enough.

He gave me a flier that had a short summary of the purpose of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The flier also said that the reason they were out in the streets offering ashes is because while it’s good to go to church, not everyone can do that, and God is bigger than a building.

They’re bringing God to the people as a way to bring people to God.

I wonder what that would look like in the context of LDS practice. I think the ministering program is intended to do that, but in practice I’ve seen it just play out as home/visiting teaching with a new name.

What can we do as a church to broaden our outreach and bring the love of God to the people around us? How can we better reach people where they are?

Trudy

Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their apartment in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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3 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    What a lovely practice, to bring God to the people as people go about their daily lives. When I teach Intro to Religion, I show a brief news clip of Episcopal priests standing out on busy streets and offering to put ashes on the foreheads of passersby. It showed the priests (women priests, incidentally) meaningfully connecting with strangers, as they asked about their lives and if there is anyone in their lives the priests should pray for. That moved a couple people to tears. I think Mormons would say they bring God to the people by sending out missionaries into the world. But that feels different than this practice, which is so open, so generous, no commitments, no pressure.

  2. Arganoil says:

    That is so beautiful! I wish as at church we had more traditions around the Christian holidays. Sometimes we don’t even have talks that correspond with Easter on Easter day or during Christmas time. That makes me sad. I think traditions can be the glue that holds a religion together.

    I have the feeling that as a people we have a tendency to close ourselves off to the “rest of the wicked world”. I feel a lot of fear in many of the remarks during lessons and talks. I so think we are missing the mark completely. It is really sad.

    Ministering (the translation in my language is really horrible and sounds so off every time I say it, I have associations with death in connection to that word) should also reach wider than just a couple of names on a tiny piece of paper. In my ward we basicaly continued doing exactly what we have been doing before. Very few people are grasping the difference of what is now asked of us, including the leaders.

    We are beloved children of God and we are Christs’. With all our mistakes, doubts and shortcomings, He will always love us. Through thick and thin. That is a powerful truth. Thank you for reminding me.

  3. Chiaroscuro says:

    I love the concept of holy envy; it is a positive thing to recognize we do not contain all truth and beauty. in mormonism, we could do with the more frequent reminder of our belovedness

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